When my father died, he was making plans
for an extended trip to Switzerland.
He needed the rest, the change of atmosphere,
for he had been depressed
since my mother had left him
three months ago, after fifty years
of close coexistence, to go away on her own
to a place without address.
He felt repelled by the tears,
the vicarious woes
of strangers who called themselves friends;
repelled by the smell of my mother’s clothes,
of her perfumes, of all her things
that were useless to him.
Yet he did not give them away
but left them untouched,
preferring their ghostly presence
to the risk of touching decay.
Wherever he looked, he found scattered
parts of a puzzle,
and each one spelled „Death“,
a dirty word that no decent person should say.
He was impatient to leave for a healthier climate,
and he would go soon,
as soon as he had recovered
from the tricks that his heart had played on him recently.
He knew he was strong. He had much more vitality
than his children with their feeble affection
or those wailing women who brought him flowers
(„funeral flowers“ he called them)
and home-made pastries, spoiling his appetite
with their lamentations:
(Oh, mon Dieu, la pauvre chérie, elle était si gentille,
et tellement attachée à la vie!“)
They did not know of his savings,
his large shares in Life
and other secure investments
that kept him from feeling deprived.
He would spend more freely
now that he was on his own:
get for himself whatever appealed to him,
eat in expensive restaurants,
and not alone,
order some tailor-made suits,
get rid of the old ones,
get rid of old friends,
get rid of the past,
of all that was useless and dead:
live and forget.
He died instead.
Yet he never did see his old enemy: Death.
With a friend who was spending the night at his bed
he discussed where to stay on the trip he planned
and then he fell asleep, pleased and at ease,
perhaps feeling slightly chilled by a breeze
from the distant mountains in Switzerland.